MANILA: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has rejected a proposal to import an additional 300,000 tonnes of sugar, his press secretary said on Wednesday, despite an earlier announcement of approval by the industry regulator.
"(Marcos) is the chairman of the Sugar Regulatory Board and denied this in no uncertain terms," his press secretary, Trixie Cruz-Angeles, said in a statement, after the regulator issued a notice of approval of the purchase plan.
Earlier on Wednesday, the industry regulator said President Marcos had approved the importation of up to 300,000 tonnes of sugar to boost tight domestic supply, as the country tries to tame soaring inflation.
The Philippines seeks to import both raw and refined sugar, according to a notice by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), which Marcos himself chairs as the agriculture secretary.
The cargoes must arrive no later than Nov 30, the SRA said.
Raw sugar output in the crop year ending Aug 31 is expected at 1.8 million tonnes, 16% lower than the production from the previous season, resulting in a substantial inventory decline, it said.
Retail sugar prices have climbed due to limited local supply, adding pressure on inflation that soared to a near four-year high in July, dampening consumer spending in the second quarter.
In June the SRA said the supply situation had worsened, citing crop damage from a typhoon back in December, unfavourable weather and legal issues that had hampered previously-approved sugar importation.
The Philippines is not a regular sugar importer, but when necessary, it usually buys from Thailand, the world's second-largest exporter after Brazil.
Marcos has vowed to turn the long-neglected agriculture sector into a growth engine.
But he faces enormous challenges such as declining local productivity and rising costs of farm inputs, including fertiliser, supplies of which have been disrupted by the Russia-Ukraine war.